Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The Importance of Immigration

Henry Hall, editor of the wonderful blog China Africa News, just wrote a fascinating piece on The Christian Science Monitor that looks at the impact of Chinese immigration on the African continent.

He begins by saying:
An increasingly common complaint emanating from the African media is that Chinese immigrants in Africa are having a negative impact in their host economies.

Recent studies suggest that the population of Chinese in Africa now stands at close to 1 million. The chief concern is that Chinese small businesses, often run by Chinese families, are capitalizing on their better access to Chinese markets, more advanced techniques, or superior access to capital, to make profits in key industries in which Africans seek employment – namely petty trading, agriculture, mining, and building work.
The piece really should be read in full, but these are the points I want to highlight:
  • Hall gets the Chinese population right, which does not always happen when writing about the numbers of Chinese in Africa. Right now, it stands at about a million.
  • The piece mentions that Chinese and African labor do compete in certain sectors, "namely petty trading, agriculture, mining, and building work." That is an important point, because one of the differences in how the Chinese live and work in Africa versus Americans or Europeans is that the latter are not competing for the same sorts of jobs with the locals. 
  • Hall explains how Chinese market traders are so successful compared to their African counterparts due to"their superior access to Chinese markets and capital," though I would like more of an exploration of the work schedules of traders.
  • He sets up an interesting frame of analyzing Sino-African relations by asking whether Chinese wealth leaves the country or not. Most of the time if China generates wealth it is viewed as somehow illegitimate, that they are taking something from the African peoples. Perhaps that is the case, but it would probably be more helpful to see if Chinese money stays in the locality in which it was generated.
  • Hall highlights areas that China could really benefit Africa, notably transferring skills, employing locals with successful businesses, and setting up manufacturing.
  • Hall concludes by emphasizing the importance of African governments in regulating immigration. The proverbial ball is mostly in Africa's court on this issue, and it is up to African governments to enforce immigration or at least think about immigration.
Chinese immigration to Africa has a huge impact on how everyday people in African countries view China and they are an important component of Sino-Africa relations too often lost in the gaudier discussion of national diplomacy. Hopefully more people take notice of their importance.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Link of the Day: DRC Journalist Jailed After Story on Chinese-Run Hospital

The Committee to Protect Journalists just put up a sad piece about a DRC journalist jailed after story on Chinese-run hospital. I do not know what the Sino-African implications of such actions will be. However, I do feel that China has been given cover for much of its African activities from African journalists giving it the benefit of the doubt, at least in English-speaking media outlets. While China did not do the jailing, it does not look good for the country to appear above criticism. All those at-times shrill accusations of a nefarious Chinese plot to have African governments spy and jail their citizens might not sound as far-fetched anymore.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Interview: Kumbukilani Phiri

I recently reached out to Kumbukilani Phiri, a Zambian who works at the Sunshine Kaidi New Energy Group and who speaks fluent Mandarin after studying Civil Engineering in Guangxi university. As someone whose professional and educational experiences are the product of the Sino-African relationship, I am so very fortunate that someone with his insight and background allowed me to interview him.

1) What do "China-Africa relations" mean to you?

  The China-Africa relationship would be more meaningful if it was a win-win situation. The current state of affairs is that while China knows what they need from Africa and are ready to tailor their agreements and contracts based on what they need,however African countries do not seem to know about what they need from China. This has resulted in a situation where people are beginning to feel that African's are getting a raw deal from China which is not the case. My belief is that if African's would sit down and strategise on how to engage China, things would improve for them.

2) What is one thing that Chinese people and/or African people are doing well in that relationship?

  The one thing that Chinese people and African people are doing well in this new relationship is a two sided thing.
-The Chinese investment that is coming into Africa is of course a very good gesture from the Chinese.
-Africa allowing China to invest in Africa is also equally a good thing. However, this would be even better if Africa gave terms of how China should go about their investment in Africa. Firstly it is common knowledge that, when China does an investment, most of the senior management jobs including technician jobs are given to the Chinese and Africans only get jobs of labourers which is of course not good for technology transfer which Africa dearly needs to develop its local based capacity.

3) What is one thing that Chinese people and/or African people can improve on in that relationship?

  The one thing that both China and Africa need to do to improve this relationship is for Africa to rise up and challenge the current status quo. Firstly I would like to say that China needs Africa and vice versa but Africa has more to gain from China if they understood how to engage China. Africa is now a landlord to China and they have a better advantage to negotiate good terms of partnering with China. If this situation is not changed soon, I see many problems arising from this new relationship as Africans one day will wake up and realise that they have been treated unfairly by China, and this will cause a lot of problems in some cases might even be worse and lead to civil strife.

Note: this style of three-question interview was suggested by Eric Olander.


China-Africa relations
As you may have noticed, nothing has been posted on this blog for quite some time. That was because I was putting myself through an intensive GMAT study program, which was totally not worth the time as I did not get the score I wanted.


In any case, I am back and ready to resume sharing my perspectives on Sino-Africa relations if you'll have me. I will continue to study for the GMAT's and hopefully take them in the summer, but I will find a better balance between researching/writing and test-prep.